Dear Father Hood: what’s the hardest thing about being a new dad?

Great news, I’m a dad again. My daughter was born a couple of weeks ago, which means two things. First, life around here is as hectic as you would imagine. Second, I’m trying to come to terms with being a new dad again.

Full disclosure: so far, it’s awesome. Our little lady is teeny, cuddly and cute, the Bubster is being brilliant with her and my wife and I are loving life as a family of four. Will this euphoria last? Who cares? I’ve experienced enough rough parenting nights to know that you need to enjoy the good times when they arrive.

However, while times are good, they are far from easy. Sleep isn’t simple to come by. I’m trying to mix work and parenting. My wife is attempting to recover from the birth. EVERYTHING needs to be sterilised. My only down time is on the toilet. The dishwasher keeps beeping. Our laundry pile is almost high enough to be classified as a mountain. And no-one seems to be able to work out how to change a girl’s nappy without getting covered in urine (I naively thought only boys did the ‘pee fountain’).

The hardest things about being a new dad

But are any of the above the hardest thing about being a new dad? No, they are not. I state this with certainty, because at around 2.47am the other night I had a revelation. Which was… KFC is the best fast-food restaurant on the high street. Only joking. Although KFC is good, my actual revelation was a little more ‘on brand’.

I sat up, I thought about how tired I was, I felt momentarily down about never seeming to be able to do anything right and then I looked at what my wife was doing, considered how she must be feeling and realised that the hardest thing about being a new dad is that it’s not as hard as being a new mum.

I’m not saying this to score points or be controversial. I’m saying it because it’s undeniably true. Being a new dad is nowhere near as hard as being a new mum. And that’s what makes it so difficult.

A difficult struggle

Simply put, we’re on a hiding to nothing. Our problems will never compete with our partner’s, so they feel unnecessary and weak. After all, how can we be struggling to cope when our better halves are doing so much more? How can we be tired when we’ve had more sleep than our wives, who, by the way, are also trying to feed humans through their nipples? And what do we have to moan about when our careers haven’t been sidelined and our bodies haven’t gone through hell?

The counter argument

It’s a compelling argument, but here’s the thing, or to be more specific, things.

  1. Yes, our wives have it tougher, but we can be feeling low, because men are vulnerable to depression in the first few months after our child is born. The latest figures show that around one in 10 men suffer from PND, with this ratio rising significantly in men whose partners suffer from PND.
  2. Yes, the chances are we sleep more than our partners, but we can be tired, because we’re NOT getting enough sleep. A study of over 1,000 new parents found that mums AND DADS miss out on a whopping six months sleep during the first two years of their child’s life. The research found that 64% of parents with babies under the age of two get just three hours and 45 minutes of uninterrupted sleep per night and 12% get two-and-a-half hours or less. To put this into context, most adults need five hours of uninterrupted sleep to function properly and some need as much as eight.
  3. And yes, we tend to be able to keep working and do not have to carry and then birth a human from our nether regions, but we do have stuff to moan about, because raising kids is tough, our lives have been turned upside down and we’ve pretty much got no idea what we’re supposed to be doing. Plus we can’t remember the last time we saw our friends or managed to get the lid off of that Tommee Tippee thing without bursting a blood vessel and nearly dislocating a finger. Oh, and don’t even get us started on the difficulty of making new dad mates.

It’s good to talk

So, what’s my point? My point is that being a new dad might not be anywhere near as hard as being a new mum, but it is tough and fathers should in no way feel weak or useless for admitting as much. Got that? Good, now take the next step. Which is? Well, if you’re a dad who is struggling, the next step is talking to your partner or a close friend about how you’re feeling (note: if you choose your partner, make sure you pick a decent time of day (i.e. not 3am) and qualify your statements with an appreciation of how hard things are for her). And if you’re a dad who is doing okay, the next step is asking your friends who have had kids recently how they are honestly doing.

The more we talk, the more we normalise, and the more we normalise, the easier it is for people to seek help. So maybe, you know, share this article on every social network and parenting forum you can think of :-).

Until next time.

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